Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to be willing to heckle me about that. I am not sure if he does not like the program or what, but $600 million in my part of the world is a lot of money and producers are thrilled to see that beginning to roll out for them.
I should point out that $160 million of those funds are going to hog and cattle producers. That is not an insignificant amount of money. In total, cattle and hog producers are expected to receive--and I expect a heckle from across the way when I say this as well--nearly $1.5 billion through jointly funded business risk management programs from late 2007 through 2008. Maybe the opposition is applauding us and maybe I mistook it for a heckle, but even the opposition has to recognize that $1.5 billion going out to this sector is a large amount of money.
The government has added an additional $1 billion in loans available to the livestock sector through the federal advance payments program. That is a good program. We have worked quite a bit on the cash advance program. The opposition actually agreed with us on that and helped us to pass the legislation regarding those advances. Again, an additional $1 billion will be available in loans through that program. The additional funding for the advance payments program will provide the sector with a total of up to $2.3 billion in loans that will be available to livestock producers. A number of provinces have also stepped up and developed programs for the industry as well.
We are continuing to work with industry representatives to find ways of helping the industry position itself to be competitive in the long term and they include a lot of other efforts as well. I am going to talk more about some of those in the next few minutes.
One of the things that struck me is that the Liberal government never made good agricultural choices. That is probably because there has been such a disconnect between the Liberals and the rural areas. Earlier this evening we heard, as one of my colleagues mentioned, a love-in among the opposition parties. It seems that they have very few people from rural communities, but they are willing to slap each other on the back and say how much they care. We know they have a passion for these subjects.
I was reminded of something I said yesterday at committee which is that in hindsight the opposition members can see a gnat from 100 yards, but when it comes to accuracy they could not hit an elephant at that distance. That is really what we are talking about, their knowledge about the agricultural industry. It is disturbing they have as little knowledge as they do. We trust that they are willing to learn and we trust they are willing to listen and to try to understand.
One of the subjects that has come up a couple of times tonight and one of the places that clearly the opposition does not have a good understanding of agriculture is the Canadian Wheat Board issue. I would like to take a couple of minutes to talk about that, because this is an area where we could actually bring prosperity to the agricultural sector and the opposition seems dedicated and completely committed to making sure that does not happen.
Right now western Canadian farmers are sitting with their pool return outlooks somewhere under $10 for the wheat they have turned over to the Canadian Wheat Board. The market in Minneapolis is approaching $20. It seems that if the Canadian Wheat Board is saying it is only going to return $8 or $10 to the producers in western Canada, either it has completely failed to market the grain properly this year, which is possible and may be likely, I do not know, or it is hoarding a big chunk of farmers' money trying to keep it back so it can be delivered all at one time to make itself look good.
I would like to know what it is. Unfortunately, because the board is as secretive as it is in what it does, western Canadian farmers cannot find that out. What they do know is that the barley markets should be opened up. Sixty-two per cent of producers voted to have more marketing choice in their repertoire and the opposition is bound and determined to deny them that opportunity.
It is funny because the Wheat Board says it cannot offer marketing opportunity to western Canadian barley farmers, but I have to tell the opposition members this because they do not seem to understand it. It has already offered that marketing opportunity to the organic producers. Last year it tried to run an organic program where it was trying to get producers to buy into its system. It was such a complete failure that this year it turned around and said, “Well, we would like to open up the organic market. We will let the organic guys buy back their grain for only 8¢ or 10¢ and then they can sell it for whatever they want.”
One of the most fascinating things that I have seen about this is how the president of the NFU has disappeared on this issue this year. He is an organic farmer. If the organic farmers in my home town are telling me the truth about what they are getting for their grain, he is making twice the money the other farmers who are held captive to the Canadian Wheat Board marketing system are getting. Organic producers have told me that they were taking bids for $13 to $18 for their spring wheat. They were getting in the range of $10 for Canadian soft spring wheat and they were looking for over $20 for their durum wheat; this at the same time that regular producers are held in a system where they are getting less than $8 a bushel for their grain.
I find it interesting that organizations would take a position when their own presidents of the organizations would be in a different situation than what they expect the rest of the Canadian public to have to put up with.
My NDP colleagues always quote the NFU because they seem to be fairly closely connected and they take their advice from them. However, they really should go back and ask them some questions about why one of their lead people would be taking a buyback of 8¢ and making $20 a bushel on his grain while he and his fellow members in that organization expect everybody else to take less than half that for their grain. There is a lot of concern over that.
I want to move on to some other fronts and some of the other things that have been affecting the livestock and the pork trade and also some places where we see some opportunities arising from some of those things.
As I talked about earlier, we have been able to get the borders open. This government has moved on this issue and farmers have been able to thank us for getting the borders open.
We also know that our standards are higher than anyone else's in the world, particularly our neighbour across the border. We know that we have a good product.
This government has moved on bilateral agreements. That was a huge frustration for us when we were in opposition, trying to tell the Liberal government it needed to get moving on bilateral agreements because WTO may take a long time to settle. The Liberals sat there and said, “No, no. It is okay. We are not going to initiate anything. We don't have the resources for that”. We sat and we sat and we sat and we had no bilateral discussions going on at all, I do not think, maybe one in 10 years, while the Americans settled about 35 of them. And we wonder why we were starting to fall behind.
Earlier tonight I heard the member for Malpeque seem to imply that it would be okay if we were to throw out aid that was actually countervailable, that maybe we should say, “Damn what happens at the borders; we are just going to go ahead and give money out”. I hope he is not saying that because that would be the height of irresponsibility. The industry has told us time and time again it does not want whatever aid it gets to cause it trouble at the borders.
Clearly, we continue to work at WTO. There are several things that must be accomplished there. We need to expand market access around the world for products. We need to work to eliminate export subsidization. Thankfully, there has been agreement that that can take place. We need to drastically decrease the market distorting domestic support.
I see my time is drawing to an end and I am actually sorry about that. I would like to speak quite a bit longer on this.
Our Prime Minister has promised to restore Canada's position on the world stage. This government is delivering on that promise for Canadian farm families. We are opening new international opportunities. I am proud of the fact that our minister has been going around the world opening up markets for our producers. He has been responding to producers. We can see success in this industry because of the initiative that this government is taking.